03 September 2015

Some reflections on this morning’s
Eucharist in Saint Bene’t’s Church

The Church looking out onto the World … the door in Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge, looking out onto Bene’t Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

This is my last day in Cambridge following this year’s summer conference organised by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. As usual, I began the day with a five-minute walk from Sidney Sussex College to Saint Bene’t’s Church, where I have been attending the early morning Eucharist at 8 a.m. throughout this week.

This morning, the associate priest at Saint Bene’t’s, the Revd Rachel Nichols, presided at the Eucharist, and in the Calendar of the Church we remembered Saint Gregory the Great.

The readings were: Ecclesiasticus 47. 8-11; Psalm 100; 1 Thessalonians 2. 3-8; and Mark 10. 42-45.

Rachel read from Exciting Holiness:

“Gregory was born in 540, the son of a Roman senator. As a young man he pursued a governmental career, and in 573 was made Prefect of the city of Rome. Following the death of his father, he resigned his office, sold his inheritance, and became a monk. In 579, he was sent by the Pope to Constantinople to be his representative to the Patriarch. He returned to Rome in 586, and was himself elected Pope in 590. At a time of political turmoil, Gregory proved an astute administrator and diplomat, securing peace with the Lombards. He initiated the mission to England, sending Augustine and forty monks from his own monastery to refound the English Church. His writings were pastorally oriented. His spirituality was animated by a dynamic of love and desire for God. Indeed, he is sometimes called the ‘Doctor of Desire.’ For Gregory, desire was a metaphor for the journey into God. As Pope, he styled himself ‘Servant of the servants of Go’' – a title which typified both his personality and ministry. He died in 604.”

In a week in which many of the discussions have been about Orthodoxy, ecumenism and dialogue, it was interesting to reminded that Gregory was a bridge between the Church of the West and the Church of Constantinople.

But it was interesting too to be reminded of his role in initiating the mission to England, sending Augustine to refound the English Church.

At the back of the church, I picked up the September edition of Franciscan, the magazine of the Society of Saint Francis. This edition is devoted to the Radical Orthodoxy movement, with essays by Alison Milbank, James Walters, Toby Wright and Steve Holinghurst debating a movement that has been strongly influenced by Anglican theologians in Cambridge and that seeks to find our way back to the roots of an orthodox Christian perspective that gives rise to a much more holistic view of God’s world.

In some ways, these essays bring together many of my experiences this week in Cambridge, both at the IOCS summer conference and at the Eucharist in Saint Bene’t’s in the early morning.


Merciful Father,
who chose your bishop Gregory
to be a servant of the servants of God:
grant that, like him, we may ever long to serve you
by proclaiming your gospel to the nations,
and may ever rejoice to sing your praises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with your servant Gregory
to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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